Mainstream adoption of technology is improving conditions for small businesses across Australia. From cloud-based accounting solutions to social media aggregators, technology is helping small businesses save time, enhance customer service, and grow in unprecedented ways.


“Technology used to be the domain of big business, but that’s no longer the case,” says business expert David Koch. “More small businesses are seeing the benefits of adopting technology. Whether that means they use a cloud accounting solution to invoice their clients on the go or schedule their social media campaigns through Hootsuite, technology is becoming ubiquitous in small business and that’s a great thing!”

Koch suggests early adopters of technology are already reaping the benefits of this connected ecosystem.

“Technology is transforming the way we do business. We pay for our coffee with the wallet on our smartphone or order ahead with an app. We login remotely to our workplace and get instant access to our files in the cloud. We Skype our colleagues overseas or interstate and we send documents and emails from the road. Tech is part of everyday life. If your business isn’t using the latest solutions, you will be left behind.”

You may think all this tech comes at a hefty price tag. However, Koch is quick to pitch the affordability of this brave new world.

“There are great subscription models for essential services and an abundance of free apps and software solutions that will do the trick,” he says. “There’s really no excuse to lag behind.”


Kochie’s 3 essential business tools

Cloud Accounting Software

Switch from paper and spreadsheets to a cloud-based solution for your accounting needs. Start by linking your bank account to your accounting software. You’ll get real-time data on the financial health of your business. You can trace customer sales. Submit invoices while on the road. Create budgets to track your business performance. Best of all, you’ll have access to your account information from anywhere at any time.

Customisable dashboards can provide insights into your clients’ buying behaviour, their sales history and whether they have outstanding payments. If you’re in the professional service industry, you’ll also benefit from features such as time-tracking, which allows you to set up projects and tasks, add collaborators and capture the time it takes to complete a project, making it simple to track and project billable hours.

Social Media Tools

Social media is an essential part of the marketing mix for today’s small businesses. However, managing multiple accounts can be challenging, especially if you’re time poor.

It’s important to trial what social media works best for your business. Then focus on providing quality social posts to those channels. Perhaps your Instagram and Facebook have great engagement but Twitter is dead in the water. Once you know what works, set up your social media on a scheduling app such as Buffer, Hootsuite or Mavsocial (if you want to post in other languages) and shave hours off your schedule. These tools also provide analytics to help you measure your

Customer Relationship Management System

I cannot stress enough how much a good customer relationship management (CRM) tool can enhance your marketing and customer service resources. It can provide the data your business needs to identify pain points and opportunities. It can also help nurture your customer relationships and identify patterns in buyer behaviour.

The best CRM tools provide customisable dashboards which not only make life easier for you but also your customers. How? By providing them instant access to their account history and the ability to review and pay invoices. It also frees you up from the seemingly never-ending email and paper trail. It’s a win-win!

“Regardless of whether you employ one of these solutions or all three, implementing these online tools will free you up to spend more time on developing your business. That’s gotta be a good thing,” Koch concludes.

Discover more ways to save time and money with Sage One’s range of online business tools and cloud accounting software. Start a free 35-day trial at

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In an increasingly competitive market, smart businesses understand maintaining good customer relationships is essential to success.

Loyal customers are vital to any successful business. They not only provide return business, but are also great advocates for your brand. For your small business to succeed, managing customer relationships is essential.

Whilst old-school businesses may have relied on a Rolodex and a salesman with a great memory to maintain customer relationships, today’s businesses have technology at their fingertips. With just a few clicks, customer relationship management (CRM) tools can help you organise and analyse customer data, make payments easier for your customers, send out communications, and much more.

“Technology means it has never been easier to build a deeper connection with your customers. Likewise, technology has made it easier for your competitors to build a deep connection with your customers too and lure them away,” says Kochie’s Business Builders resident small business expert David Koch. “In this digital era, the key to business success is knowing your customer better than your competitors.”

Attracting new clients is often costly for small businesses. During tough times, your loyal customers keep your business afloat. Maintaining good relationships with your existing customers therefore makes financial sense. For this reason, Koch suggests customer management tools are now a “critical and fundamental foundation of every business”.

“Building a profile of your customer’s habits, preferences, cohort and individual nuances allow you to build a sophisticated strategy which will lead to sales,” he says.

A good CRM tool ensures your marketing and customer service resources are used to maximum effect. It can provide the data your business needs to make effective decisions, like who your top customers are, their purchasing behavior and preferences, as well as your top sales items. This kind of data can help you detect pain points and opportunities to grow your customers and business.

A CRM tool can also make life easier for your customers. Dashboards that allow them to view invoices, review their account history, and make payments online eliminate much of the back and forth communication and paperwork traditionally required to settle payments. Late payments – often a pain point for many small businesses – can be virtually eliminated. There’s no more invoice to chase up as your customers can pay you directly when the invoice is received online. A great tool to boost your cash flow!

Koch suggests managing customer relationships can provide big wins for your business and brand.

“It’s a basic business principle that customers who feel valued are more likely to repeat business and provide good word of mouth. This, in turn, builds goodwill, which attracts customers which adds to the value of your business,” says Koch. “Implementing CRM is a win for everyone.”

Kochie’s Top Tips for Keeping Customers Happy

Understand your customers

Who are they? What is their age, gender, occupation, hobbies? Where are they? How much do they spend? Why do they buy from you?

Communicate with your customers

Maintain touchpoints with your customers. Use social media and EDMs to deliver special offers. Use e-news to share personal milestones or customer stories. Send surveys to get feedback on any sticking points and to assist you in providing solutions.

Develop a customer service policy

Encourage a customer-centric approach in your business. Make sure all your staff are on the same page with this. Consider implementing customer service guidelines to ensure a consistent customer experience.

Record everything

Keep a record of all your interactions. It makes it easier for someone else to pick up the ball should you get knocked out by illness or need to take time away from your business. It doesn’t need to be complex – even a word doc will do, however, many CRM systems will provide this feature.

Handle complaints with aplomb

A complaint is an opportunity to turn a bad experience into a good one. Often the most loyal customers are those you have resolved a complaint for. Provide guidelines and procedures for your staff to follow in the case of a complaint.


Keen to drive customer engagement, improve sales and discover data driven insights for your business? See how Sage One online accounting software can provide the CRM you need to make the most of your customer relationships!

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With Australian small businesses owed an average of $38,000 each in outstanding payments, poor cash flow is one of the main reasons they fail. Here’s how you can stay on top of your cash flow.

Cash flow is the life blood of your business. While small businesses go bust in the long term through lack of profit, in the short term they fail because they don’t have enough cash to pay their bills. Poor cash flow is cited as a factor in 40% of Australian business failures[1], and 38% of business owners are forced to dip into their personal savings to keep their business afloat[2].

So how can you help ensure your business stays in positive cash flow? Here’s five ways:

1. Forecast your cash flow

A cash flow forecast is an estimate of the cash you expect to bring in and pay out over a period of time, usually 12 months. By using your sales and payment history, you can estimate your likely sales for each week or month, as well as payment timings, and all likely costs.

Forecasting your cash flow can help identify potential shortfalls in cash balances, so it’s a great early warning system. An easy way to gain the historical data you need to forecast cash flow is with an online accounting solution, which can offer automatic bank feeds that allow you to quickly access historical transactions.

2. Take action to minimise late payments 

With more than 40% of Australian small to medium-sized businesses having more than 11 invoices outstanding [3], late payments are one of the main causes of cash flow problems. 

To increase your chances of prompt payment, remember to invoice immediately following a job. Offer easy online payment options or EFT to simplify matters. Clearly stipulate your payment terms on your invoice and discuss this with your client before accepting a job.

If a payment is late, be certain to follow up with your client as soon as possible to avoid your invoice falling to the bottom of the pile. Also, consider implementing a penalty fee for overdue payments.

3. Keep a close eye on your accounts

Many small businesses are unaware of cash owed to them simply because they don’t keep track of their accounts.

An online accounting solution can help you stay on top of your accounts with automatic bank feeds. This feature means you don’t need to download and import bank statements manually – your bank transaction data flows seamlessly from your bank – allowing you to easily track outstanding payments.

4. Pay bills only when due and negotiate terms with suppliers

The longer you can hold onto your money, the better your cash flow. Check each invoice for payment terms and pay on the last day possible. It’s also worth investigating to see if you can extend payment terms with suppliers, for instance, if you can settle your bill in 60 days rather than 30.

If you’re thinking about making a big order, don’t miss the chance to negotiate. Could you set up a regular payment plan for example rather than paying off outstanding amounts in one go?

5. Manage your stock intelligently

Monitoring stock closely and only ordering on an as needed basis is essential to avoid unnecessarily outlaying cash. Work out what sells quickly and profitably and make sure you’re not tying up funds in slow moving items. For a quick cash flow boost, try selling off old or outdated stock at a discounted price.

Try a free 35-day trial of Sage One cloud accounting software to see how you can easily


forecast and track your cash flow, create and send invoices on the go, and access your business’s real-time financial data anywhere, at any time.

[1] Australian Securities and Investment Commission

[2] The Invoice Market, “SME Cash Flow Crisis Report”, 2017

[3] The Invoice Market, “SME Cash Flow Crisis Report”, 2017



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When COFA graduates Harriet Watts, Ben Elbourne, Sarah Speckman, Lauren Austin and Carly Vickers decided to hold an exhibition of their design pieces, the group were surprised at the level of response to their wares.

The artisans had long been admirers of each other’s work, but clearly the public also shared their love for bespoke pieces that could be incorporated into the everyday. In 2011 the five multidisciplinary artists joined together to form the Fortynine Studio.

“We came together to share space and equipment and develop work fuelled by our values and passions, as that wasn’t possible in a commercial company,” Watts explains.

Real-life being what it is, the five-some have now become two.  Watts and Elbourne remain as the collective’s only full-time members as others answered the call of family commitments and commissions. Yet their passion for exploring new techniques and delivering an alternative to mass-produced products has never waned.

Speaking with Kochie’s Business Builders from their Marrickville studio in Sydney, Watts tells us art and the arts have always played a major role in her life.

“One strong memory I have is a charcoal on paper drawing that hangs in my parents’ living room,” she explains. “When I was very young it looked to me like a large wild scribble, later I could decipher a leg sticking out, and another shoe. It took me many years to read the drawing as it was … two dancers in motion.”

Watts says she wanted to be an artist “more and more as she grew older”. Eventually, that passion translated to studying design and a career as a textile and object designer.

The ceramicist says she and Elbourne are driven by a combined interest in designing work that has a positive impact.

“We’re developing work that presents an alternative way of connecting with objects, understanding and relating to the natural world. Our ranges offer a local and low-impact alternative to mass-produced products,” she adds.

The studio’s name derives from a reference to small-scale and local manufacture, and more loosely, the handmade.

“Under Australian law, forty-nine is the maximum number of objects that can be made where the design is protected by copyright. Once a multiple of 50 is made a design is considered mass manufactured.”

Bespoke items have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Watts is pleased more people are moving away from the manufactured and embracing bespoke products.

“Statistics show that people are now living with less material objects. Perhaps, as a result, people are seeking to have more considered, beautiful, and relevant pieces. I think there’s been an increase in understanding about materials and materiality. People are also becoming more aware of the social and environmental impacts that objects can have, and recognise the buying power that consumers have in regards to this. People are supporting companies that align with their own values more and more.”

Whilst artists aren’t usually renowned for their business acumen, Watts and co have managed to sustain a successful business for a number of years. She says that whilst finances will never be at the “centre of what we do” they nonetheless are a serious consideration for the studio.

“Our decisions are fuelled by our values and our creative ideas. So it’s been important for us to have various income streams to support our practice, and as we’ve built this in, it’s given us more flexibility in what we are able to do creatively.”

Whilst the creation of bespoke pieces can be time-consuming Watts says ironically it also helps them with their cash flow.

Although the pieces take time, because we produce the work ourselves we’re able to put in additional time when it’s needed to make things happen. A ‘time risk’ is much easier to manage than a financial risk, and has allowed us to take things on where we wouldn’t have otherwise had the cash flow,” she explains.

She says having the studio grow out of a collaboration between like-minded friends has been immensely beneficial.

With a team of five friends we had fun, we were all there for the right reasons and with strong convictions about what we were doing, and were able to grow together. Thinking about what we’re contributing in the big picture is something that’s always been important at The Fortynine Studio, and it’s shaped our studio and work. Having said that, starting with clarity around what, why and how you are doing what you do is really important.”

As practising artists, Watts said she and Elbourne are always experimenting with new materials and processes, testing and developing ideas. And finding ways to stoke the creative fire is important.

“We do a mix of self-directed design fuelled by our own interests and values – these will sometimes be for exhibition, competitions, and/or develop into production work that is available for sale. We also do custom work for clients, interior design firms, and commissions. All this feeds into each other and we constantly build on our material and processual experience and knowledge.”

As an artist, Watts prefers to be guided by her materials and often finds inspiration in the natural world, particularly the landscapes and species in Australia.

“As much as possible we use local, native, natural and sensitive materials. We tend to use simple production processes, often hand-production processes.”

She suggests anyone with an interest in design and design processed would benefit from a visit to the Fortynine Studio.

“We have all of our ranges available here in our studio, as well as many tests and samples that we can develop custom work from.

The studio also provides the opportunity for additional income:

“We run monthly workshops where you learn some basic clay techniques and get to make your own tableware and plant pots. They’re great fun and a good way to see a working studio, get your hands dirty and spend some time with friends or family.”

Sage One Humans of Business is proudly brought to you by Kochie's Business Builders.

Zarina Fatima left behind a career in the IT industry to launch Little Oz Kids Family Day Care. Now the mother of two runs a thriving business, coordinating 60 educators across the state, who take care of children in their homes.

Growing up in India, Zarina says she recognised the sacrifices her mother made in order to take care of her and her two siblings, putting aside her career aspirations. After having children of her own, Zarina felt a similar tug to provide for her kids and decided to launch a business where she could spend more time with her children and help other parents in the same situation.

Given her background in IT and administration, Zarina quickly realised she had the organisational skills to run a network of family day care operators and Little Oz Kids Family Day Care was born. Setting up an office in her home, Zarina now manages the operations of a slew of family day cares with 450 kids under her wing.

“I manage all the administration and working of my coordinators in my company,” she tells Kochie’s Business Builders (KBB). “I have 60 educators working under me, who take care of kids at their family day care premises. As of now, my educators care for over 450 kids all together in Sydney.”

Zarina has also used her business to outreach to women in need, providing access via Ability Links to assist women who have experienced domestic and family violence (DFV) a pathway to return to work.

“Because of their situation, they may not be in a position to go out to work to earn money. So we have stepped in to show them the way to get started earning money could be setting up a family day care at their residences and caring for other people’s children.”

Zarina says the benefits to DFV survivors is two-fold.

“Now they are enjoying being in the workforce and becoming financially independent as well as they are spending quality time with their kids.”

Care can range from short to long term and all child care workers must have specific qualifications such as up-to-date first aid certificates.

“Our educators offer vacation care, long day care, occasional care and a school readiness program for kids who are going to join school next year.”

Zarine says keeping up with all the compliances is the main sticking point in the day-to-day running of her business.

“Compliances are the major part which one needs to follow while running this business. One should make sure at no point compliances are breached. Educators need to comply with all the rules and regulation of the National Quality Framework.”

While most small businesses struggle with cash flow Zarina says putting processes in place such as accounting solutions, can assist in dealing with these challenges.  With three full-time staff assisting her with coordination and 60 family day cares to manage, it’s imperative that funds keep flowing.

“Being in small business is very challenging. Especially with no funding assistance available from the government,” Zarina says. Whilst she says she may one day open commercial premises at the moment her best option is to continue to run her business out of her home office.

Despite running a business from home, Zarina says there is always help on hand should she need it.

“I need to report all compliances and issues to the Department of Education. [But] The regulatory authority is always available on the phone and email to help us with all doubts and queries.”

Given the nature of family day care, which revolves around family’s schedules, Zarina tells us the toughest part of her job is coordinating annual leave.

“Running a business and going for holidays is tough. So I close my business during Christmas time, to make sure I have a relaxing break of two weeks.

In spite of the long hours and hard work, the successful small business owner suggests anyone with a great idea and a passion to start their own business should give it a go.

“I would say it’s never too late to start. Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Sage One Humans of Business is proudly brought to you by Kochie's Business Builders.

Food for Life: Fat-Free, gluten-free, sugar-free. These days consumers are faced with a barrage of nutritional information. Making sense of those labels can be hard work. What does it all mean? How healthy really is the food we’re eating?

For dietician and nutritional expert, Jade Gibbons the question has become an obsession. Gibbons small business Nutriscope assists big name food businesses by providing them with credible nutrition information and guidance to support their product development, labelling and nutrition marketing messages.

Gibbons tells Kochie’s Business Builders (KBB) she grew up in a household where home cooked meals and healthy living were the norm. She says this simple ethos of ‘good food is good for you’ resulted in a natural curiosity in the kitchen. “I was creating and planning meals from a young age and I’ve continued to do so since,” she explains.

The fitness and health fanatic says a career in the health and wellbeing industry was almost inevitable.

“It is a combined reflection of my values, attributes and interests.  I wanted to do something where I helped people and made a difference, and which also enabled me to problem solve and provided opportunities for creativity,” she says of her business Nutriscope.

“What excites my being, however, is an enjoyment and love of food!  The combination of all these elements led me to pursue studies of a Bachelor of Science (Nutrition and Dietetics) and Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise and Sports Science), after which I became an accredited dietitian and nutritionist.

We are all consumers of food and recipients of marketing and nutrition messages. As such Gibbons believes food producers, suppliers and manufacturers have a responsibility to provide nutritious food and accurate nutritional messages.

“My role and business help food businesses achieve this through providing credible nutrition information and guidance to support the development of products, labelling, and nutritional marketing messages.”

Gibbons tells KBB she was inspired to start her own business after working for a food company in product and labelling development.

“I experienced first-hand all the requirements that running a food business entails, and the competitive food environment.  With consumers becoming increasingly aware of nutrition, I was inspired to find a solution that would both help food businesses and consumers.  Having witnessed the benefit that a true understanding of nutrition provided in the development and promotion of products, the idea of Nutriscope Solutions was founded. “

Gibbons’ role at Nutriscope has led her to work with a number of well-respected brands working on creating new iterations of products. Understanding their business pipeline is integral to the success of these collaborations. Communication is key.

“I encourage open and transparent communication from the onset, including clear understanding of project details,” she says.

She suggests the most vital element of the process is discovering what is important to the client, brand and product range. Such as finding out the brand values, specifically nutritional values and qualities they wish the products to contain, and the target market for the product range.

“Whether it be assisting with recipe development for a product or menu, what is integral to the process is finding out about what is important to the client, brand and product range.  Finding out the brand values, specifically nutritional values and qualities they wish the food item to contain, and the target market for the food item.  For example, a client may wish to develop a menu that is gluten-free as they wish to cater for individuals with coeliac disease (and therefore need to follow a gluten-free diet). Research is thereafter undertaken to support specific requirements and recommendations, enabling the brand to develop products, labelling and marketing messages that have been guided by credible nutritional insight.”

With reports of food intolerances increasing and more people becoming conscious of the nutritional elements of the food they eat, Gibbons says Australians should take note of the labelling on their food.

“Understanding food labels is key to selecting appropriate foods and eating well.  Food labels in Australia and New Zealand provide a lot of information.  The trick is knowing what to look for and what to be wary of. From a nutritional perspective, the most important pieces of information on a label are the nutrition information panel, ingredient list and allergen statements.  For example, the ingredient list is actually an ordered list, where the ingredients are listed in terms of ingoing weight.  This means that the earlier or higher an ingredient is listed in the ingredient list, the greater weight amount of that ingredient is in the product.  This is useful to know when a consumer wants to understand and get a sense of what is in the product.”

Gibbons suggests marketing can be a powerful tool of persuasion, and can often cloud a consumer’s judgement when it comes to making a healthy food choice.

“It may make it difficult to understand the true nutritional quality of a product,” she says.

“Appreciate the attractive packaging and clever marketing, but also be label savvy by knowing where to find and understanding important nutrition information such as the nutrition information panel, ingredient list and allergen statements.

“It is also sometimes more of a case of what isn’t written on a food label.  For example, a product may state that it is ‘fat-free’ however may contain a higher level of added sugar.  When emphasis is placed on a single attribute (for example, ‘low-fat’), it can result in consumer overestimation of the healthiness of the product and higher consumption of the product.  It is, therefore, useful to look at the nutrition information panel and ingredient list for an overall picture of the nutritional composition and ingredients in a product. “

Having started her business in such an organic fashion, Gibbons tells KBB she faced some unique challenges.

“As I come from a science background, the main challenge was stepping out from the technical role, and expanding my role to managing all aspects of the business.

“Even though I enjoy being hands on and learning, in hindsight I would have sought earlier a mentor to provide guidance with business aspects.  On a positive, I love having an understanding of areas that otherwise I wouldn’t,” she explains.

Like any small business Gibbons has faced cash flow challenges but tells KBB that by “considering projected income and expenses, and using accounting software” she’s able to keep her invoices on track and ahead of the game.

Her advice to anyone wanting to embark on their own small business venture is simple:

“Know your strengths and weaknesses, and reach out to others for guidance as appropriate.  Have goals, determine how you plan to achieve these and implement steps accordingly.  Be kind to yourself and celebrate each victory.”

Sage One Humans of Business is proudly brought to you by Kochie's Business Builders.

Childhood friends Tom Griffith and Emma Walsh turned a passion for healthy living into an Aussie empire.

A shared love for health and wellbeing has proved integral to the success of local healthy drink and snack food producer Emma & Tom’s. The childhood friends whose business is their namesake first embarked on a partnership together in 2004. As Australians’ passion for a healthy lifestyle has increased, so too has their business, growing from a simple juice offering to embrace all manner of healthy food and drink options. Today Emma & Tom’s is almost synonymous with healthy living. And to hear Tom tell it, that’s just the way they like it.

“There seem to be a lot of ways to die, but eating well and controlling your weight appears to knock out most of them. People also know that they are happier when they are healthier,” Tom tells Kochie’s Business Builders.

It seems a fair enough premise on which to start a business. Tom says the idea for Emma and Tom’s came about after several shared conversations about putting healthier options on the table.

“Both Emma and I, independently, wanted to do our own thing, to build something. We saw super premium juices being sold in North America and the UK and loved the idea, so decided to have a crack ourselves. We didn’t think then that we would be running a much broader healthy drinks and snacks business in the future.”

Emma and Tom take their responsibility as one of the nation’s leading healthy beverage and snack producers very seriously. Tom tells KBB everything they do is motivated by their credo “look after yourself” which they hope inspires other Aussies to embrace a journey of health and wellbeing. An active and healthy lifestyle was always part of Tom’s agenda.

“My family were and still are very active and we always ate very natural healthy food,” Tom explains. “I loved my sport, which started with surfing and skiing as a boy, I rowed at school and university to a reasonable level, did triathlons, ran the London Marathon, climbed Mt Kilimanjaro and have completed my ski instructors qualification, in another life.

“I still look to doing something physical every day. Now I’m a father of two young girls, I’m very focused on feeding them delicious healthy meals.”

But it’s not just his kids that Tom wants to benefit from a healthier lifestyle. He thinks all Australians deserve to live their fullest healthiest happiest life.

“I truly believe that if you eat well, sleep well and exercise you perform a lot better. I like being healthy, fit and strong, it allows me to do more and to enjoy it.”

It’s also another reason the business operates under the credo ‘look after yourself’.

“’Look after yourself ‘came out of an early meeting, before we launched back in 2004. It’s perfect, as at Emma & Tom’s, we help people look after themselves, it’s what we are about,” he says.

Indeed the brand doesn’t just talk the talk – they walk it too. Recently Emma & Tom’s was given B Corp status. (B Corps redefine success in business by competing not to be the best in the world, but to be the best for the world).

“Emma and I have always believed that there is more to it than the bottom line. We believe that to be good corporate citizens a business needs to support social and environmental impacts as well as financial,” he explains.

This ethos translates across all their business decisions. The brand was one of the first to adopt the use of recycled PET bottles and several years ago launched a foundation with the Cotton On Group called The Unite Project, which has so far raised circa $300K to fight youth homelessness. It’s just one of the many ways Emma & Tom’s gives back to the community.

Since launching in 2004 with just a few fresh fruit juice lines, Emma & Tom’s has grown exponentially and like any business, they’ve had their teething issues. Tom says keeping the focus on the customer and on solving problems rather than being overwhelmed by them has helped them maintain an even keel.

“We have had bottling plants close down on us, key customers not be able to pay us, fermented juice in bottles… We feel that our biggest challenge is just our ability to get on with it, innovate great products that people love and getting them into consumers’ hands. When you run your own business, it’s always up to you.”

Many small businesses can get into trouble with managing cash flow – Tom says they have been able to avoid most of these growing pains by ensuring good business practices, cloud-based accounting solutions and managing exports sales to free up cash flow whilst negotiating good terms. Tom stresses the importance of making sure your accounts are in order.

“Clearly managing inventory, debtors and creditors effectively can provide huge leverage to our balance sheet and cash position,” he says “A large proportion of our direct sales to customers are made in cash, so this helps. Our increasing export sales to China, Jordan, etc. are paid either Ex Works or FOB, so export provides great cash flow. For the rest, it’s just based on our ability to negotiate terms with customers and suppliers.

Managing inventory and keeping up with customer demands is also especially important for a business like Emma & Tom’s.

“Inventory is the biggest number on our balance sheet, so yes, managing it is crucially important. We had to upgrade our accounting software to achieve this and have now employed a Production Planning and Procurement Manager, who manages all purchasing and production. We manage our customers’ inventory by visiting our proprietary customer base on a weekly basis, so we have a very intimate relationship with them. The major grocery chains have replenishment quotas that trigger their ordering,” Tom explains.

The pair also keeps a keen eye on trends in the marketplace and recently launched their own range of dairy products. In a saturated market, new products have to work doubly hard to be noticed, but Tom insists Emma & Tom’s products stand out.

“We spend a lot of time sourcing the best raw ingredients, then a lot more time perfecting the blend/mix. Running alongside this is the label, wrapper design, nutrition and planning marketing for the launch. With the No Added Sugar Milk range, like all of them, we run focus groups who provide feedback doing blind tastings and reviewing product concepts.”

These focus groups are integral to the success of a new product helping to define key messages, ideal packaging and sample size.

Tom proudly adds, “All products are made from REAL ingredients. There is no added sugar in our products. They’re made in Australia, using predominately Australian ingredients and Australian owned.”

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Memories of idyllic childhood days growing up on a farm in Grafton fueled The Grounds founder and creative director Ramzey Choker’s desire to create an inner-city oasis.

Whether you’re a coffee junkie, an inner-city hipster, a Sydney family or an international tourist, no visit to the inner west would be complete without a drop-in at The Grounds.

Set on the site of the former Four ‘n’ Twenty pie factory, The Grounds first opened its doors in 2012, converting the disused car park and warehouse space into a stunning café and garden. In the five years since, it has sprawled across the old industrial estate to encompass a restaurant, florist shop, bakery, markets, bar, coffee school, wood-fired pizza place and of course a fabulous array of farmyard friends.  Founder Ramzey Choker’s vision to turn the disused space into a haven for inner city families and friends has delivered in spades.

What is perhaps most inspiring for any new small business owner is Choker’s success came from hard work and ingenuity. After the GFC left Choker and his family all but penniless, the entrepreneur knew he had to come up with a way to once again provide for the future.  While having no money to start his dream venture, what Choker did have in spades, was passion, vision and tenacity.  With the help of his family and friends Choker raised the half a million to bring his idea to fruition and with the security of a 20-year lease in place, he set about bringing The Grounds to life.

“The concept of The Grounds was born out of a need and desire to look after my family,” he says.  “I wanted to honour the memory of my father and all of the lessons he taught me, and do something truly great for not only the community but the whole country. I wanted to build places and spaces that allow our guests to interact and reconnect with one another.  The world is moving so fast and I believe that connection has been lost,” he says.

Judging by The Grounds popularity, it seemed Choker struck a chord. Still, it took six-months before the business began to make a profit. Now turnover is in the millions and Choker has gone from employing a staff of 15 to over 250 people. Along the way Choker has continued to push the envelope with The Grounds’ concepts and creativity.

“To me, business is about innovation and reinventing yourself to predict what your customers need before they know it,” Choker tells Kochie’s Business Builders. “A lesson I’ve learnt is to not fall in love with your product but instead with your customer. Your business must always be adaptable so you can continue to evolve.”

Much of The Grounds success rests on Choker’s ability to continually raise the bar for the customer experience.

“Creating experiences is what we talk about but it’s really about knowing who our customers are and finding ways to add value to their life,” he says. “That’s why we keep innovating and evolving.”

At the heart of every new addition to the plan lies The Grounds ethos: “to create special moments in people’s lives”.

“The Grounds is a place where you can experience beauty, inspiration, connection and joy. We understand what our core focus is and we live and breathe it. It’s also our will to serve and always improve – we’re relentless when it comes to that.”

Since The Grounds first opened, a number of imitators have sprung up. Whilst Choker says it’s flattering, he suggests business operators would do better to follow their own dreams.

“Business is brutal and I know how hard it is. If you don’t 100 per cent understand your own passion and meaning, you won’t have what it takes for long term success, and that’s the sad fact to it.”

Fortunately, Choker’s passion has never waned and has allowed him to open several pop-up versions of The Grounds. Despite the transience of these venues, Choker says he loves creating them.

“Of course, creating amazing experiences and adding value to our customers’ lives is what we’re all about, but council restrictions and the governance around our pop-ups make it incredibly difficult.”

This year there will be no Grounds pop-up at Sculpture by the Sea, the annual outdoor sculpture exhibition at Bondi Beach. However, Choker has plans afoot for new ventures and recently made his first inroad into Sydney’s CBD with Grounds of The City tucked away in The Galleries.

Tackling a second full time business in a new location has stretched Choker, but he insists careful planning across all areas of the business has allowed him to bring his vision for the new space to life with minimal risk.

“We definitely approached the model differently. For The Grounds of the City, we knew who our customers were, projected ourselves into the future and created a space with beauty and value tailored for them.”

As this massive beast of a business continues to evolve, Choker has his eyes on the prize continuing to deliver a business that inspires and delights his customers. Key to his vison is his staff.  According to Choker it’s all about his “people, people, people”.

“It’s one of our four key pillars within The Grounds. along with our customers, beauty and the numbers. It’s extremely challenging but it’s about finding people that believe in your vision and can bring it to life. A big part of The Grounds is making sure our staff want to learn and evolve which helps with the business growth and evolution.”

With 15 years to go on his 20-year lease, no doubt The Grounds will continue to evolve.

In the short-term Choker says he will continue to focus on creating a better experience for his customers.

“A few projects that are first up include redeveloping the kids’ area, refreshing the café and roastery. We’ll also continue to create new experiences hosting special events and activations.

“We’re developing an education arm of the business, sharing our talents in styling, coffee and baking, and will increase our community involvement. We’re developing the way we make everything efficient for our loyal customers and are currently looking for a few more venues, including another city space, a new roastery and an events space.”

Meanwhile he continues to credit his continued success to the lessons he learned from his late father.

He was an amazing businessman and the exposure I had to the running of his business and his work ethic gave me the hunger to create my own business.”

Sage One Humans of Business is proudly brought to you by Kochie's Business Builders.

Already a successful entrepreneur with a multimillion dollar business, WINK modelling agency under her belt, CEO Taryn Williams has set her sights on disrupting the creative talent and influencer industries with her new effort,

Taking note of the changes impacting the fashion and modelling world and the rise of influencers as brand ambassadors within the industry and the world at large, Williams tells Kochie’s Business Builders she was inspired to branch out with The successful entrepreneur has called the “Uber of the talent arena”. She says the service provides easy access to over 6000 talents, everyone from influencers to bloggers to photographers and models. It easily matches them to a client’s need – producing ‘the right fit’ for a brand or job.

“In the 12 months prior to starting I was seeing a lot of changes in our industry,’ she adds. “There was an increase in digital advertising spend, a move to brands creating smaller bits of digital content to feed always on social channels. The type of talent required in campaigns was also changing (more authentic, relatable, attainable), and the advent of the social media influencer. I could see our industry was ripe for disruption.”

Williams says she had just finished building an app for WINK Models to manage the agency’s 650+ models Australia wide, “and I had fallen in love with using technology to solve problems” so it was natural to consider taking her idea for straight to an app. allows users to list a job, browse for applicants, list a casting, make a booking and more. And whilst Williams had explored the use of IT for streamlining WINK she tells us is a completely different beast.

“ is a high growth tech company, VC backed, with international expansion in mind from day one. WINK grew much more organically, and has a fantastic client base and is in a much different phase of business to So the challenges the two face are very different and present very different opportunities too, and definitely requires me to ‘switch hats’ when looking at each.”

As any business owner involved in a startup knows, devoting 12-hours a day or more to business can be the norm, but Williams has the added challenge of an existing business to consider. However, she says her job is made easier by her “Incredible team”.

“I have an amazing managing director in WINK who makes the magic happen on a day-to-day basis, so my full focus can be spent on which, as a start-up, really requires my focus and full dedication. It does mean that sometimes my days are more like 14-hour days than 12-hour days though,” she smiles.

Given the rapid success of Williams says it was vital she put checks and balances in place to ensure the business runs smoothly.

“Managing cashflow in a start-up is definitely a challenge, as building a high growth tech company that is venture capital backed, we really do watch every single cent. We have a CFO who I work with closely to ensure we are tracking to budget and a bookkeeper who manages the day-to-day transactions. We have custom built admin panels to see live data on transactions as they occur so we can see income in real time as customers checkout. We use accounting solutions and a real time payment gateway.”

Juggling clients on both sides of the company can get tricky, especially when it comes to tracking revenue.

“As a tech company, we utilise all the fantastic tech tools to keep a track of revenue drivers on both sides of the company. We have integrations with Amazon QuickSights, Kissmetrics,, Hubspot as well as our own custom-built admin panels and live accounting integration. It’s imperative we know at a glance exactly how the business is performing.”

She says to assist with her time management she relies on a number of tools to manage her efficiencies. “I’d be lost with Slack, JIRA & Trello – my entire world is managed through these and entered into my google calendar!”

And as much as she likes to maintain the reins of her business, Williams says she understood very early on you can’t do it all alone. She tells KBB she made a point of ensuring she had the best team around her from day one.

“I knew the size of the market opportunity for and wanted to ensure we could scale as quickly as possible. Part of that is having the best advisors and strategic investors, a great management team, and we’re incredibly data driven as a business to ensure things run as smoothly as possible in a start-up.”

Still Williams says that running two businesses simultaneously is not without its challenges.

“I’ve had to become much more efficient in my days, to manage a bigger team, and a business that iterates much more quickly that my first. I need to fit more in my day, especially with international employees and the time difference. I’m ruthless with my schedule and routine, and try to minimise distractions. For example, I return all calls during one hour of the day, and delegate where I can to people who are better at the task than me. It’s constantly an evolving work in progress though.”

Whilst Williams acknowledges it’s incredibly rewarding to build your own business and team from scratch, it’s not without sacrifice. Her advice to anyone contemplating a start-up is simple:

“Make sure you’re fully prepared – you need to be passionate, tenacious and resilient. A healthy dose of strong work ethic and an appetite for risk helps too.”

Sage One Humans of Business is proudly brought to you by Kochie's Business Builders.